Expository Preaching Defined

A classic definition from Haddon Robinson’s book Biblical Preaching:

“Expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through him to his hearers.”

There is a lot packed into the definition isn’t there?  I was taught that when preaching, you must “let the text win.”  Sometimes we come with our own ideas and agendas as we approach the Bible.  However, as we read, study, and pray, our goal must be to understand what God is saying, so we then can speak for God to our listeners.  Questions about context, authorial intent, and how the passage fits within the overall story of God and the Church, must be looked at examined.  A preacher must come humbly to God’s word, seeking to find and distill the message that should be delivered.

The definition says, “expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept.”  While this is true, the definition doesn’t stop there.  Robinson expands the definition, as if anticipating questions from his students.  How?  What do you mean?  Yes, but . . . Tell me more. . .

The biblical concept is “derived and transmitted through” or the Biblical Idea is gathered and delivered

*Study (Context:Historical,Grammatical, Literary)

*Spirit (apply what learned personally through personality and experience)

This is an approach that a preacher should have in sifting the message from the Bible to the hears.  This idea makes me picture a gold miner who sifts all the excess rock and dirt aside to find the gold.  All the work and sweat and pain is worth it for a tiny fleck of gold found in the sifting pan.  Expository does carry with it the idea to “expose.”  We are called to expose the truths of God revieled in His Word.  This is what we do as preachers.

We mine the scriptures, remove the clutter and hold up the truth gleaned from God’s Word!

Our charge is to communicate a Biblical idea discovered through Study and the Holy Spirit.  Own the truth ourselves then present it to our listeners.

Read, Study, Pray!  Discover the Big Idea and then share it!

  • Have you heard this before?
  • What do you think about this definition?
  • Are there things you would add or qualify?
  • How do you define preaching?